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Tea Cups & Tiger Claws Kindle Edition
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There is so much in this tale that it could have easily come apart but, somehow, the theme of revenge drives the plot relentlessly like a devastating tornado through a corn field. Some aspects are unrealistic and far-fetched but this is a work of fiction and the everyday authenticity of the common people's world is strong enough that the reader is willing to suspend belief and be taken along for the ride.
The first part “Sisters” spreads its poisonous foundations like an oil spill. The middle “Cousins” ticks along like a time-bomb, plotting and calculating, spinning a web of intrigue that is perhaps difficult to relate to real life. The third and last “Enemies” takes us on a mad, unstoppable ride of reckless power games and murderous folly where the book becomes a page turner and hard to put down.
Most of the main characters are frankly revolting human beings, and even the 'good' ones are not always easy to like. The narrator's voice remains neutral and non-judgemental but I sensed a fair amount of sympathy for human weakness in the face of adversity. Even though the story deals with three identical triplets, the author shows how upbringing and childhood values shape the character of the sisters so that, in maturity, they are as different as can be imagined. Their children (natural and adopted) are also heavily influenced and moulded by their respective mothers' personalities and parenting styles. Strangely, in this distorted slice of reality men have only limited influence and their impact is mostly dependent on their jobs and positions. There is a Henry James quality to the inevitability of an outcome that was almost impossible to foresee but, nonetheless, once the wheels of hatred are set in motion, can only lead to one conclusion. Dorthea's machine-like epic power is counterbalanced by the very human scale of characters such as Sarah and Mack, whose only strengths are their cool intelligence and determination to survive. Horse lovers will appreciate Tim Patrick's confident and knowledgeable treatment of equestrian matters and I very much enjoyed the horse-gentling subplot of Mack's youth, which reminded me of Monty Roberts.
Although the storyline is predominantly disturbing and there is some graphic violence, when something is done very well, it is enjoyable no matter what. This is certainly the case here and I loved the strong, assured quality of the writing, the fresh and original phrasing and the total command of both the gutter and lofty heights worlds that co-exist with such unease, separated and cushioned by the large and anonymous middle-class who despise both bookends with equal vigour. An intriguing and engaging read. I would like to see Tim Patrick tackle some lighter material with the same detached sardonic eye.
The setting is a small town, Prospect Park, where the divisions of social class are real barriers between trash at the bottom of the hill, increasing respectability part ways up, and high society literally at the very top - though all is never what it may first appear and these generalisations cleverly mask undercurrents. Author Timothy Patrick skilfully employs homilies to explore concepts of honesty, sincerity, privilege, regret etc. and he introduces concepts of love and loyalty as well as jealousy, hate, misery, suffering etc. plus insights to domination, control, revenge etc. `Tea Cups and Tiger Claws' is a complex novel, and as such some events are perhaps not fully explained, and there is a degree of implausibility in Dorthea's wielding of power - but it all makes a great story. Narrative is easy to read and comes across as spoken by a raconteur, with much humour in the dialogue and commentaries which at a serious level highlight differences between American white-trash and the old money class. Dorthea herself makes good financially but cannot overcome snobbery, inbred superiority and authority of those living on top of the hill. The final chapter queries what has changed within the family, and more importantly what remains the same in the wider community of Prospect Park.
It begins in 1916 with triplets born to a teenage mother in the shanty town at the foot of the hill. Triplets are hardly a common occurrence and they quickly become ten minute celebrities. The gifts and money come flying in - for a short while. The father is in his element - money means booze. He is angry when it dries up but there is light at the end of the tunnel for him: one of the babies' admirers remains true and she is a duchess from the top of the hill. She wants to adopt the triplets and offers cash incentives. Their young mother, Ermel is not too happy and finds a way to hang on to one of her babies, Dorethea.
Whilst her sisters are brought up in luxury and with love, Dorethea can only watch from her squalor at the foot of the hill. It soon becomes clear that Ermel did not hang onto Dorethea from love but more out of a desire to bester the Duchess and her greedy husband. She does not even offer her daughter a mother's love and Dorethea has nothing in the face of her two identical sisters who seem to have it all.
This is in part Dorethea's story and the effect no love and malice born of envy can twist a life. But it also a saga of families, of money corrupting and how easy it is to know the cost of everything and the value of little. It is a well written tale with its twists and turns and the characters are well developed with the individualism of the triplets shining through. These are all people you want to know more of as you become fascinated by their lives.
My one criticism is the character of Dorethea becomes perhaps a little larger than life as the story moves towards its awful crescendo.
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Most recent customer reviews
Entertaining, sad, larceny, greed, murderous
DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY AT ITS WORST
Recommend to read, slow start which sets up later storylines.